On a sunny day last December, the Brazilian model Bruna Tenorio and her one-month-old son, Gael, ventured outside to the bakery next-door for a morning croissant. “I came back, put the bread in the toaster, and the next thing I knew, it was burnt to a crisp,” she says over the phone from her home in Brooklyn, New York. “I just remember crying—and hard.”
She’s not alone: the postpartum period is one of the more challenging times in a woman's life, physically and psychologically. With all attention turned to a new baby, it can feel impossible to find the time or energy to eat—let alone cook—a well-balanced meal. “Immediately following [birth], your estrogen and progesterone levels plummet, while cortisol floods your body due to lack of sleep,” says Faith Atkins, LCSW, a Chicago-based psychotherapist and parent educator with a specialty in perinatal disorders. “It’s almost like you’re functioning with a hangover every day, which creates a tendency to over index on caffeine and sugars.”
That’s why, in countries such as China, family members step in to provide a nutritious menu for the first forty days and nights after childbirth. “In many traditional cultures, people are still living with their family members, so there isn’t this ask, or this guilt of, ‘Who am I going to turn to for help?’” says Heng Ou, best-selling author of “The First 40 Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother,” a book of traditional Chinese recipes meant to guide families through the postpartum period.
A few years back, Ou launched MotherBees, a meal delivery service with a loyal celebrity clientele based in Los Angeles. She's joined by a growing number of motherhood-focused meal plans, including Nouri Mama, which Tenorio called in for a week of grab-and-go meals. “They have a very simple salad with chicken in it that I loved,” she says, recalling her gratitude for something as basic and highly nourishing as fresh greens, which were flanked by a menu rich in vitamins, water, protein and good fats. "I didn't, and still don't, want anything more complicated."
Here, five meal delivery services that will make the postpartum period a whole lot easier—and healthier—for new and expecting mothers.
1. Nouri Mama
Inspired by Eastern food therapy, this New York City-based meal delivery service offers a local and seasonal menu of foods that are low on the glycemic index and high on fiber, which is important if you are at risk for gestational diabetes or hypertension during pregnancy. Designed to meet any stage of motherhood, from pre-conception to postpartum recovery, the customizable menu includes: a probiotic kimchi congee, which is made with rice, kimchi, lotus root, spinach and scallions and is good for fatigue, as well as baby’s flavor-learning abilities during the second and third trimesters; a warming buddha bowl, made from brown rice, roasted cauliflower, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes and chicken, that's good for blood replenishment and tissue repair; plus, snacks like date and fig bites (to combat morning sickness) and lemon ginger goji tea (for dehydration). Family add-on meals are available at a discount, so no sharing required.
2. Ritual Meals
Founded by two women who grew up eating in traditional Chinese kitchens, where the belief is 'food is medicine,' Ritual Meals is a national meal delivery service on a mission to nourish women after birth. The postpartum period is their focus, with dishes meant to support physical recovery, hormonal balance, as well as a new mother’s milk supply. A robust menu, centered around easy-to-heat comfort dishes, includes: coconut cream of mushroom and chicken, featuring a melange of seasonal adaptogenic mushrooms (great for balancing estrogen and progesterone); banana pancakes with macadamia crunch, made from almond, coconut flour and bananas (high in fat, the good kind); and warming beet ginger coconut soup, which blends every part of the beet with antioxidant-rich cumin, and features a healthy dose of fat and protein with cashews and tender braised pork shoulder. With weekly subscriptions or one-time deliveries on offer, it's a great gift for new mothers.
New York City's Jocelyn Sheff is a certified ayurvedic health counselor and personal chef who believes that postpartum women are as vulnerable as their newborn babies. “Mothers deserve to be swaddled in the coziest environment, and given warm food,” she says, comparing a woman’s belly to a fire that needs kindling. That’s why her offerings, which are seasonal and designed for each client’s unique constitution, consist of locally-sourced foods that help soothe the nervous system while boosting digestion. Think oatmeal and porridge made with coconut milk; fennel and fenugreek teas for lactation support; spiced and pungent bone broths—“it’s baby steps for the first ten days,” she says, after which she’ll slowly incorporate shredded meat like brisket or short ribs and root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, or sweet potatoes. Her services range from virtual consultations to recipe booklets to in-home care for the third trimester and postpartum period.
For best-selling author Heng Ou (“The First 40 Days” and “Awakening Fertility”), MotherBees is more than a L.A.-based meal service that delivers herbal foods, supplements, teas, broths and recipes with roots in traditional Chinese medicine. “Food is the medium; underneath it, we are empowering a woman to voice herself and her needs as she transitions from womanhood to motherhood.” A pantry stocked with collagen and mineral rich bone broths, warm porridges, enhanced kefir water and organic jujube fruit—the latter of which is loaded with antioxidants and vitamin C, and said to boost digestion while soothing anxiety—allows a new mother time to heal and bond with her baby. In Ou’s culture, it’s part of a wellness tradition performed by the grandmother or aunt called zuo yuezi, which means “the sitting month,” and it’s offered to all mothers.
For mothers without close relatives nearby—or with other little people to feed by 5 o’clock—the recently launched Ipsa Provisions delivers organic meals that are made fresh on site and arrive to your door frozen. Co-founded by a chef at Gramercy Tavern and the former brand director at Blue Apron, the restaurant-worthy meals aren’t exactly geared towards new or expecting mothers, but one look at the menu and you’ll see all the necessary ingredients are there: sichuan pork noodle soup, made with pasture-raised pork shoulder, Chinese vegetables, and Sichuan peppercorns; curried kabocha soup, which features Malaysian curry powder and organic heirloom squash in a coconut chile peanut broth; and beef and kimchi stew, comprised of grass-fed brisket, local bok choy in a kimchi broth. You may never cook again—really.